Call it what you will, Potting Shed, Man Cave, Garden Studio. Buildings in the garden are popping up in many homes I visit and offer a multitude of uses. For some they are storage solutions, for others they create space for an office; gym, TV room, library, sauna — you name it, I’ve seen it. A friend of mine has been invited to a Shed Opening Party in a swanky part of North London where I doubt the owners will be showing of their lawn mower and collection of pots. Sheds are chic and a must have for the discerning home owner.
Rooms in the garden are usually less expensive than a loft conversion or basement dig-out, and are less disruptive and perhaps less contentious too. As long as they meet the right restrictions and guidelines, they are usually seen as outbuildings within permitted development so don’t need planning permission.
You need to think long and hard about your garden building and plan it well. The most important consideration is how it can work with the garden and enhance rather than dominate it. I’ve seen many buildings that simply feel plonked down; they often look out of proportion or their style is out of keeping with the rest of the plot.
So I spoke to garden designers and here are some things to consider.
Where to put it
It’s common to put a studio across the back of the garden. This can work if you have the depth to plant in front of it to screen and, in effect, create a false back to the space. In a small garden, however, it can visually shorten the garden and have a negative impact on the flow and movement to what is already there. Think about putting it at 90 degrees, to one side or perhaps two thirds of the way down, which will create another usable area beyond.
Generous planting areas alongside some elevations will help to soften the structure and help it to sit in the garden comfortably, especially when you’re looking at it from the house. It’s great to look from the inside out through wispy plants such as tall perennials and grasses, so don’t be scared to plant close up or even grow some well-behaved climbers (trachelospermum, roses, most clematis) up and over it. The scale of the planting is also key, so perhaps some small trees or large shrubs taller than the building will help it to sit into the landscape nicely. Make sure there are some evergreens so that it doesn’t become too bare and visible over winter.
Neighbours and privacy
You must discuss any garden considerations such as boundaries, overhanging trees, shade and a garden building near a boundary with any neighbours that it may affect. The main concerns close to a boundary or in a small garden are usually the building’s height and finish, but there’s also its use. Understandably people are concerned about their own privacy and quiet — something to consider if you want to use it as a space for teenagers.
What the law says
Outbuildings are considered to be permitted development that does not need planning permission, subject to the following:
● They are single-storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5m and a maximum overall height of 4m with a dual pitched roof or 3m for any other roof.
● Maximum height of 2.5m in the case of a building sited within 2m of a garden’s boundary.
● No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
● No more than half the area of land around the original house to be covered by additions or other buildings.
● In national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and World Heritage sites, the area to be covered by buildings, pools enclosures, etc, more than 20m from the house must be limited to 10 sq m.
● Any outbuilding within the gardens surrounding listed buildings needs planning permission.